October 12, 2010 Subject:
Interesting bit of history
This is an interesting bit of history and Tabithat is an excellent reader (complete with Australian accent).
May 17, 2010 Subject:
Great history, well told
Thank you, Tabithat, for a wonderful reading.
Watkin Tench, the author, was Captain of the Marines for this expedition to New South Wales 1787-88, which was the "First Fleet" (and still known as such) to bring British convicts (or any other settlers) to Australia. The First Fleet carried over 1000 convicts and military on a journey of seven months time. Few ships had been to Australia before, other than the early Dutch, French, and British explorers. Three annual convict fleets arrived before any “free” persons arrived. For other original accounts, see http://www.cultureandrecreation.gov.au/articles/convicts/ and http://firstfleet.uow.edu.au/stories.html
Tench's record contains all of the wonder and detail of an explorer's fresh eyes and need to understand. You'll hear in this piece particular interest in new and corrected location specifications. To find longitude, one must have a very accurate clock. In 1768, Captain Cook left England, on a voyage chartered by the Royal Society, to observe a transit of Venus from Tahiti and to try to discover the antipodes (a theorized continent in the South Sea). In 1770, Captain Cook, using a version of John Harrison's marine chronometer not then yet officially accepted by the British government as accurate to determine longitude at sea, made the first recorded European landfall on the East coast of Australia. Chronometers for decades continued to improve in accuracy, though precise locations of various harbours, islands and hazards around the world were still very much in doubt. Keep this in mind to appreciate the need for and importance of Tench’s observations.
Sections 1 through 3 of this piece is Tench’s record, to himself and to those who would follow, of facts useful to mariners on passage to Australia: the aspect of each landfall from the sea, how far out to sea the point can be observed, what provisions are available at each port and at what prices, the local governments and attitudes etc. I can assure you that for almost another 200 years mariners kept the same kinds of records and published them. I sailed the China Sea, the East and West Coasts of North America and the Caribbean in the days before GPS, internet etc and, in those days, we used sextants of the same design and used astronomical tables and calculations similar to those used by the First Fleet. We tried to have precisely the same information as Tench provides, correcting information as we progressed, and taking photos of approaches and harbors for future use. My experience gave me particular affinity for the purpose and use of Tench’s writing.
The ensuing sections of Tench’s report are a remarkable history of an attempt to create a new, functioning society based on English law but constrained by limited resources and the convict/military dichotomy of the population. The reactions of the Aborigines are also a true-life background to modern science fiction.
Have fun with your own knowledge of exploration and naval events. Why is the dispute over the longitude of San Sebastian so important? Why is there a celebration (in Botany Bay) on the Fourth of June? How accurate are Tench’s lat/long calculations?
May 17, 2010 Subject:
thank you Ms T!
Well done and keep reading to us---you are wonderful.